Have you heard the term Peer Support before?
I am sure that I have, but it never really sank in. Not until I spoke with my counselor the other day about an idea I have but I am unsure about. I went on to tell her that I want to start facilitating a support gathering for survivors but that I am concerned about my credentials.
That’s when she told me about Peer Support.
What is Peer Support?
Peer Support is exactly what it sounds like, it is support from your peers. Often without realizing it, we all use peer support regularly in our lives. We look to our friends and family for advice and support. We go online and look for sites like like this one to read about others’ experiences with the same struggles we have so we can find tips, guidance, or a little bit of solace. We seek out support groups in our communities.
Not to diminish the importance of professional support and guidance in trauma healing, but sometimes we need a connection deeper than academics to help us sort through our struggles. Whether in a group, or individual – this is what peer support can offer trauma survivors.
The Idea Behind Its Success
There are six things that are believed to be key in the success of peer support and they all come from the idea of psychosocial interaction. In other words, how our brain responds to the environment of our social interaction.
Here are the things that can happen when we use our environment as a healing tool and connect with other survivors so that we can all help each other heal:
- Experiential Knowledge. When it comes to trauma healing, this speaks to the level of knowledge and perspective a person who has also been through childhood trauma can offer someone just beginning their healing journey.
- Social Support is about the connection and level of understanding that can be offered by someone who shares the same traumas and history of abuse.
- Social Comparison means that we feel more comfortable opening up about how crazy our heads get at times, with people who also have heads that get crazy. It’s easier to talk to and look for guidance about the struggles of CPTSD with someone who is also experiencing them and coping.
- Social Learning suggests that we learn from each other. As a survivor, I look to other survivors who are further in their healing journey for hope and for advice. In turn, I hope that the things I am learning and sharing help others who are not quite as far as I am.
- Helper Therapy translates into helping others has healing power. It is empowering, it gives perspective, it gives us purpose. Helping others who are struggling with childhood trauma will help us heal ourselves.
- Self-Determination means you make your own decisions. You decide what works best for you and you determine how you heal best.
Why Peer Support is More Important than Ever
Many of us have entered unprecedented and uncertain times. Healthcare is hard to obtain for many, and mental health is becoming a very real issue as we all struggle with stability in our lives.
Many of us are also looking for options that don’t require we go into an office, or have tons of cash in the bank.
Having online options for structured peer support groups and individual meetings are becoming more and more popular, and equally necessary for all of us as we learn to live with new normals and cope with the triggers and trauma responses we are living through.
Sneak-Peak: How I Plan to Help with Peer Support
From as young an age as I can remember, I wanted to be a counselor. During the trial against my grandfather, I had a court appointed advocate whose sole purpose was to support me and be my voice if I lost it. I remember thinking I’d like to do that for other kids one day.
I spent 10 years working on community and non-profit projects solely responsible for organizing and facilitating events, meetings, and effective advocacy. While my degree ended in medical coding – it started with social work focused on counseling.
I am also a survivor of complex childhood trauma and sexual abuse and I have been seeing a therapist weekly for over three years. I am lucky to have the options and the support that I do, I want to share that by providing support and options to other survivors.
I have many skills, and much experience and perspective to offer. It is becoming clear that this is my path and I plan to explore it more.
In the very near future I plan to launch a peer support program through video and conference call options and I am so excited as I work on the finishing touches of this project.
We are stronger Together
Over the years as I share my story whether through this site, through life, and on other social media platforms I have made connections with other survivors that I know will stand the test of time.
There is something unbelievably special about the connection between survivors and our ability to help each other.
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